Southern football coach Stump Mitchell made it clear again Monday that plenty of factors played a part in his team’s previous two losses against Jackson State and Florida A&M, during which the Jaguars blew fourth-quarter leads in both games.
The coaching staff isn’t immune, he said.
“We lost two games that we should’ve won,” Mitchell said. “And we all play a part in it - coaches as well as players.”
Among the other factors: dropped passes.
Officially, Southern receivers had three drops in Saturday’s loss, when FAMU rallied for three unanswered touchdowns for a 38-33 win.
Jordan Bilbo had a third-quarter drop that could’ve led to a much-needed first down, and Mike Berry had two drops - including one in the fourth quarter, when SU had a third-and-8 at its own 9. Had Berry caught Dray Joseph’s pass, the Jaguars would’ve had another first down, and they could’ve taken more time off the clock.
Instead, they had to punt. FAMU responded with the game-winning touchdown on its next possession.
Berry has otherwise been one of Southern’s most productive receivers, with 209 yards and a team-high three touchdowns.
“It’s frustrating, because those are the same guys that have made plays for us,” Mitchell said. “Those are the same guys that make catches in the game. And these are veteran guys, and they have to be focused when we’re at practice.”
Southern (1-3, 1-1 Southwestern Athletic Conference) plays at Mississippi Valley State (0-4, 0-3) at 2 p.m. Saturday at Rice-Totten Stadium.
Thanks for your support
During a teleconference Monday, Mitchell made it a point to thank Southern fans for showing up in Atlanta for the FAMU game, which drew a crowd of 59,373.
At least half of the crowd was decked out in SU blue and gold.
“They’ve done everything that I’ve asked them to do, which is to show up and show out,” Mitchell said of the fans. “They’ve been behind us, and I hope they continue to be behind the university. Because ... they’re going to return Southern back to where it’s supposed to be.”
Some good news did emerge for Southern in Saturday’s loss: The offense came much closer to achieving balance than during the first three games, when the Jaguars managed only 1.3 rushing yards per attempt.
Against FAMU, Mitchell noted, they attempted 18 runs and 18 passes in the first half, and tailback Sylvester Nzekwe gave the team a presence on the ground, with 42 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries.
Southern finished with 304 yards of offense - 242 passing, 62 rushing. The team had 26 rushing attempts and 32 passing attempts.
“Most of those (extra) passes were at the end, when I was trying to go down and score and try to win the football game,” Mitchell said.
The Blue & Gold Club is sponsoring a bus trip to Itta Bena, Miss., for Saturday’s game. The cost is $100 per person and includes a game ticket and refreshments. For information, call Craig Pierre at (225) 324-7234, Robert Square at (225) 931-4052, Eddie Braxton at (225) 654-7245 or Arthur Jack at (225) 315-8682.
The SU Unification Organization is also sponsoring a bus trip. The cost is $85 per person, and the bus will return to Baton Rouge after the game. For information, call (225) 355-6886, (225) 357-3833 or (225) 774-7616.
Mitchell said Monday he didn’t know the long-term status of offensive linemen Chris Browne, Zach Brown or Taylon Jones, who all left Saturday’s game with injuries. ... LB Jamie Payton had 10 tackles against FAMU. He has led the team in tackles the past three games. ... SU has won seven of its past eight meetings against Valley. The only loss during that stretch was in 2005, when Valley won 31-28.